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Your oasis in the Otavi mountains

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The cave of adventure
  • Guide Urbanus Hoëseb with guest presenter Naledi Twahepa in the Ghaub cave

    Guide Urbanus Hoëseb with guest presenter Naledi Twahepa in the Ghaub cave. Photo: NBC

  • Cave adventure for students from Tsumeb

    Cave adventure for students from Tsumeb. Photo: Ghaub

"The crocodile!" – "The deep water hole!" – "The clay figures!" No doubt, there were conflicting opinions about the highlight of the tour. However, the young presenter of an NBC youth programme as well as the students from Tsumeb were in agreement about one point: Ghaub Cave is a cave of adventure...

Recently, Ghaub received unusual guests: A crew of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), who wanted to film a short episode for their popular youth programme "Sunshine Club", with a student from Grootfontein as a guest presenter. The shooting focused on the Ghaub Cave, which is a National Monument and is the third largest cave in Namibia (2.5 km long).

However, it was not about the facts, but about the adventure to descend into the depth and explore the passages, equipped with helmet and headlamp and hosted by our guide Urbanus Hoëseb. The twelve-year-old Naledi Twahepa was particularly enthusiastic about the "clay house", a cave room with damp clay. Visitors kneaded small figures, which over the years accumulated to a small gallery. NBC broadcast the nearly twelve minute film as a highlight of its "Sunshine Club" edition beginning of August and after that kindly made it available to Ghaub (here).

Shortly before, Ghaub welcomed 140 grade 8 students from Tsumeb. Two guides explored the cave with them in small groups. Most of the students voted for the “crocodile” (a jagged tongue of rock) and the deep hole with glassy water as highlights of the tour.

Guided tours for students are part of Ghaub‘s contribution to enthuse young Namibians with the nature of their country.

Good harvest at Ghaub
  • Maize harvest on Ghaub

    Maize harvest on Ghaub. Photo: Ghaub

Maize farmers in Namibia can look forward to a good yield this year. On Ghaub, too, the harvest was above average. The investment in seeds and machinery, the hard work and the immediate measures against caterpillars in February have paid off...

"On the first 100 hectares we harvested an average of 5.8 tons per hectare in June," explains maize farmer Hartmut Freyer, who is responsible for the fields on Ghaub. "The remaining 40 hectares, on which we planted later and will harvest by the end of July, are expected to raise the total cut to about 6 tonnes per hectare." This is due to sufficient and well-distributed rainfalls and the immediate counter-action to a caterpillar attack in February.

With a harvest of 840 tons and a price of 4,500 Namibia Dollar per ton, the income amounts to almost 3.8 million Namibia Dollar. "Unfortunately, this won’t make us rich," emphasizes Freyer, "because you need to subtract the expenditure on seeds, fertilizers, machinery, fuel and pesticides. Not to forget the reserves for coming years of bad harvest, when the revenue does not cover the costs."

In addition to the 140 hectares of maize on Ghaub, there are 40 hectares of sorghum and 120 hectares of hay for fodder production. For next year Hartmut Freyer plans to increase the area for maize to 200 hectares. He also intends to invest in new machines.

This year, Freyer estimates that the total maize production of Namibia is about 60,000 tonnes. However, the demand in the country is double as much. So as soon as the mills processed the harvest, they have to import additional maize from South Africa.

Little Etosha in the Otavi mountains
  • One of the ostriches at arrival at their new home

    One of the ostriches at arrival at their new home. Photo: Ghaub

The Ghaub Nature Reserve is evolving into a very diverse game paradise. Since the beginning of May, with a little luck guests can spot two further animal species, without which you cannot imagine the African bush savannah: Ostrich and giraffe.

In the first week of May three male and five female ostriches were released to the Ghaub Nature Reserve. The plains in the wide valley in the Otavi Mountains, with their grass and bush offers an ideal habitat.

Two weeks before, a transport with special containers arrived, equipped with particularly high walls because of their cargo: Twelve giraffes. These elegant giants of Africa were also living in this area before the founding of the mission station and the farm.

Thus, Ghaub continues its programme for reintroduction of game. Last year oryx antelopes and impalas as well as white rhinos were released. Ghaub is also home for species such as eland, red hartebeest, blesbok and kudu as well as klipspringer, duiker, damara dik-dik and warthog.

Guests can spot the animals on a Rhino Drive or a Rhino Tracking Tour, as well as from the hide at the waterhole near the swimming pool.

Ghaub fights against caterpillar from South America
  • Import from South America, spotted at Ghaub: Fall Army Worm

    Import from South America, spotted at Ghaub: Fall Army Worm. Photo: Ghaub

Just as good rains in Namibia promise a good maize harvest, bad news strike: A caterpillar plague threatens maize fields in the countries of southern Africa. At Ghaub the so-called Fall Army Worm was discovered, too. Now it was crucial to act swiftly...

"We noticed a strong attack by the Fall Army Worm in February," says maize farmer Hartmut Freyer, who is responsible for the fields on Ghaub. "You have to act quickly, because the life cycle from the caterpillar to the moth laying eggs takes only 21 days. We treated the fields with pesticides at the end of February and brought the infestation under control."

Depending on the wind, this moth can travel up to 1,200 kilometers within 30 hours. It originates from South America, was introduced to Central Africa and now also threatens countries in Southern Africa.

In the north of Namibia it was not the Fall Army Worm, but the indigenous "Bollworm", which destroyed the whole maize harvest on the government farming area Etunda (see reports in the Namibian on 23 January and 6 April). This type of caterpillar, gnawing on the tip of the corn cob, has now been sighted at Ghaub, too. However, according to Freyer it does not pose a great threat, because the corn is already in the process of ripening: It passed the “milk” and “flour” phases and the grains now begin to harden. The only risk might be rain, which could lead to fungal infestation at the spots that have been nibbled at.

At Ghaub maize is cultivated on 140 hectares, of which 32 hectares can be irrigated. The harvest is expected beginning of June. On a farm tour, guests of Ghaub Nature Reserve and Farm will learn more about cultivation, hay production, cattle breeding and game farming.

Two rhino babys born at Ghaub
  • The three-day-old calf busy suckling

    The three-day-old calf busy suckling. Photo: Ghaub

The rhinos settled in well since their arrival at Ghaub in March last year. The best proof of this is twofold offspring: Both cows in reproductive age have given birth to a baby. However, the small ones were already conceived 500 kilometers away near the International Airport east of Windhoek...

In early March the young cow gave birth to a heifer calf, and a few weeks later the older cow followed with a bull calf. Although the five rhinos which were released in March a year ago appeared to be feeling comfortable in their new surroundings already a few weeks after their arrival, the births now clearly show that Ghaub with its grassy plains is an ideal home for them.

White rhinos carry their young for 16 months. This means that the offspring were already conceived at the previous location: At Ondekaremba, the partner company of Ghaub at Hosea Kutako International Airport east of Namibia's capital Windhoek. It also indicates that the two carrying cows have coped well with the stress caused by the capture and the transport of approximately 500 kilometers.

Guests of Ghaub can experience the rhinos close up on a Rhino Drive and a Rhino Tracking Tour. However, for safety reasons and in order to spare the two cows and their calves unnecessary stress, in the first weeks the guides keep a much larger distance to the animals.

Ghaub tills its fields
  • Tractor plowing the fields at Ghaub

    Tractor plowing the fields at Ghaub. Photo: Ghaub

While almost all people in Namibia are preparing for the summer holidays at the end of November, farmers in the Otavi mountains are rolling up their sleeves: The fields have to be ploughed so that the maize can be sown, because the magic rain mark has been exceeded...

According to an old country lore there must have been 100 mm of rain before you can sow maize. However, one must not wait too long, because the rainy season in Namibia only lasts until April / May. Therefore, last deadline is the end of January.

In order to thrive, the plants need at least 300 mm of rain in the period from the end of January to the end of March – without long dry periods in between. Harvest time is in the months of June or July.

At the end of November, Ghaub was busy tilling the fields, beacause at that time there had been enough rain. Maize is cultivated on 200 hectares, of which 32 hectares are under irrigation. The Otavi mountains receive on average much more rain than the surrounding area and are therefore known as maize area.

On a farm tour, guests of Ghaub will find out everything about the cultivation of maize, which is exceptional for Namibia: Because of the low rainfall the majority of the farm land is only suitable for livestock farming. Cattle and sheep farming on the 60 km² farm area as well as game farming in the nature reserve of about the same size are further exciting topics of the tour.

Namibia’s heraldic animal back home in Ghaub
  • Jump to freedom: 18 oryx are reintroduced at Ghaub mid October

    Jump to freedom: 18 oryx are reintroduced at Ghaub mid October. Photo: Ghaub

Our valley in the Otavi mountains has 40 new inhabitants: 18 Oryx and 22 impalas have arrived in the Ghaub nature reserve on a game transporter. Visitors taking our Rhino Drive now have two more game species to discover.

The capturing of the game on a farm near Otjiwarongo went smoothly, as did the two hour transport and the release at Ghaub. The antelopes were happy to jump into freedom over a provisional ramp next to the transporter. They immediately started exploring their new home.

We specifically chose these two species because they had become quite rare in this area and the living conditions are ideal on Ghaub. Rainfall is considerably higher in the Otavi mountains than in the surroundings and therefore grass grows higher and more abundantly.

We specifically chose these two species because they had become quite rare in this area and the living conditions are ideal on Ghaub. Rainfall is considerably higher in the Otavi mountains than in the surroundings and therefore grass grows higher and more abundantly.

With our game reintroduction programme we want to strengthen the populations and re-establish a variegated and robust ecosystem. We only reintroduce species which originally occurred in the region, as was the case with the white rhinos that arrived in April. Ghaub is also home to eland, red hartebeest, blesbok and kudu as well as klipspringer, duiker, Damara dik-dik and warthog. Sometimes tree squirrels visit the restaurant patio, much to the delight of our human patrons.

Surf service at the reception

From the Rhino Drive to facebook: Visitors of Ghaub Lodge can now immediately share their adventures, such as close encounters with rhinos, with family and friends all over the world. The new WLAN was installed end of September. For now reception is limited to the lodge restaurant.

Access to mobile telecommunication and Internet are still scarce in many areas of Namibia. In order to ensure better reception at Ghaub, we established a direct connection to a distribution point on a mountain near the tar road between Tsumeb and Otavi.

One should however not expect Internet speed and reliability of urban European standard. Internet provider Telecom Namibia has to supply a developing country twice the size of Germany, but with a population only roughly the size of Paris, i.e. 2.3 million people.